DIY Bed – Sewing Van Cushions For Your Camper
You will likely need a custom cushion/mattress cover for the bed or couch in your van. While you can hire someone to help in sewing van cushions, we suggest saving the money and doing it yourself. Sewing rectangular boxes with zippers is fairly simple if you have the correct tools and tutorial videos. Fortunately, we include all this information below!
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1 | Overview Video
Before sewing van cushions, here’s a great overview video on How to Make a Box Cushion with a Zipper. It follows what we did the best of any video we’ve been able to find online. In addition to what’s shown in this video, we added #5 Vislon Zippers to join the cushions so that they wouldn’t slide apart from one another during the night. There are two additional videos throughout the article, which you may find useful to watch before continuing.
2 | Ordering Cushion Foam & Fabric
We ordered our cushions from the company Foam N’ More, which is located in Michigan, but appears to ship to anywhere in the world. We chose them because they had a lot of options for cushion firmness, were reasonably priced, and would pre-cut and adhere the foam pieces to each other.
Before ordering, we called the company, Foam N’ More, to get some advice on what firmness of foam to order. We like firm mattresses and their suggestion was: to use two foam densities (Firm and Premium), with the high density foam on bottom and the medium density on top. The high density foam will help with durability overtime and support the cushions against the bed slats better, while the medium density foam will be more comfortable to sleep on. We’ve been really happy with our selection and wouldn’t change anything!
When selecting fabric, it is important to get samples before placing a larger order. This will prevent you from buying fabric that is poor quality, the color is off, or the texture is not what you expected. We probably ordered 30+ fabric samples before selecting one, first ordering fabric samples from fabric.com and joann.com (hoping to save money). While the color on most of these samples was pretty accurate with what was shown online, the quality and textures varied dramatically. So, we quickly gave up on these options and turned to a reliable source, sailrite.com.
We have never ordered fabric from sailrite.com that was poor quality or we were unhappy with.
Eventually, we chose Sunbrella Canvas Regatta Fabric because of its’ specifications and recommended uses – machine-washable, hypoallergenic, and extremely colorfast, good oil and chemical resistance, and very good wickability and drying time.
Additional specifications (ex. dimensions) on our cushions/mattress and photos can be found on the Custom Convertible Sofa Bed in a Camper Van page.
3 | Measuring & Cutting Fabric
The first step to sewing is always the most tedious, but the most critical in setting yourself up for success. The design includes 3 cushion covers, which will attach via zippers.1 You will be cutting 6 rectangles (top, bottom, 4 sides) for each cushion, equaling 18 total cut pieces of fabric, so no need for a pattern. The fabric dimensions will be the cushion dimensions + 4″.2 Below is a table summarizing the fabric dimensions needed; cushion is the cushion dimensions and small/medium/large fabric is the fabric dimensions, with a 4″ buffer accounted for.
|Large||75″ x 3″ x 24″||32″ x 12″||83″ x 12″||83″ x 32″|
|Medium||75″ x 3″ x 18-13/16″||26-13/16″ x 12″||83″ x 12″||83″ x 26-13/16″|
|Small||75″ x 3″ x 17-3/16″||25-3/16″ x 12″||83″ x 12″||83″ x 25-3/16″|
After planning your measurements, start by rolling out your fabric on a smooth floor. Using the squares, straight edge ruler, and china marker, measure and draw the cut line for your first piece of fabric. Then, within these lines, subtract 4″ to draw the lines you will be sewing along (see photo below). After drawing the rectangle, check that the dimensions are correct and include the added 4″ buffer. Then, cut along this line. Repeat until all of your fabric rectangles are cut.3
4 | Sewing Zippers
Before sewing the fabric together, you will add the #10 Marine Zippers to 3 of the 6 fabric strips (83″ x 12″). This will allow you to add/remove the foam so that you can wash the cushion covers. The video below, How to Make Cockpit Cushions – Box Cushions, is a similar, more detailed version of the overview video above. They also show how to add piping, which we left out; but, we found the piping section of the video helpful in showing how to install the #5 Vislon Zippers, used for joining the cushions to one another. Below the video are some additional photos of how the zippers should be added to the cushions.
5 | Sewing Van Cushions / Mattress Cover
Below is yet another video, How to Make a French Mattress Style Cushion4, to help guide you through sewing the cushion covers. This video is the least similar to how we sewed our cushions, but we figure the more videos, the better. There are a few additional photos, below the video, of how the cushion fabric is sewn together. The key takeaway from these photos is to make sure your two pieces of fabric are properly aligned.5 When finished sewing, cut away the excess fabric that was in the 4″ buffer, but save enough material to add grosgrain.
6 | Adding Grosgrain
While adding grosgrain polyester binding isn’t necessity, it will help in making the cushion covers last a lot longer, as it will prevent them from fraying. Alternatively, you could fold the fabric over itself a few times and then sew this, to keep the fabric from fraying. Either way, you should add grosgrain or fold the fabric on itself wherever the fabric has been cut. If the material of the fabric you selected melts, you can heat a knife and melt the tips of the cut fabric to further help with preventing fraying.6
After, you can add the foam to the cushion covers and join the three cushion covers by zipping them together. Then, you are finished! Below are two of the configurations that the cushions/mattress can be in.
3 Cushions? 1
4" Buffer? 2
Cut 6, Sew, Cut 6? 3
Striped Fabric? 4
Guiding Pins? 5
Melting Fabric? 6
So far, we’ve been really happy with our cushion covers. You may have noticed in a few of the finished cushion cover photos that there is slight puckering. In this case, puckering is happening because the tensioning on the sewing machine was slightly off. We also didn’t think of trying to preshrink the fabric, by soaking it in water or washing it. If you use the same fabric we used, take note that it frays very easily, so you should probably pre-shrink it by soaking it.
Why did you taper the width instead of making them all the same size? Thanks
Hi Cathy, we wanted more storage space under the “couch” component of the bed, so that piece is wider than the other two. Additionally, this makes the bed stronger in “bed” mode because the two sections with less structural support are narrower in width.